Former Chelsea winger Pat Nevin believes Chelsea were justified in selling Nemanja Matic to accommodate Tiemoue Bakayoko over the summer.
Jose Mourinho secured the services of Matic, who had won two Premier League titles at Stamford Bridge, for £40m in August and the Serb has been practically faultless so far.
Antonio Conte has admitted he didn’t want to lose the 29-year-old and captain Gary Cahill also bemoaned his departure.
But Nevin, reflecting on Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Manchester United over the weekend, claimed that Bakayoko serves as a more dynamic option in the middle.
“There were many who questioned the release of Matic to United and I understand their point, but in reality having watched them face up against each other I think the younger man in blue (including the hair) clearly won the battle on the day and there is a very good chance he is the man for the future,” he said.
“His breaking into the box from deep was extraordinary, leaving everyone else in his wake and although he didn’t finish that well, the important thing is he got himself into those incredible positions.
“In fact he probably got into more scoring positions than any other player on the field on the day.”
To conclude that one player is better than another by watching 90 minutes of football is nothing short of preposterous – something usually reserved for people on Twitter with Eden Hazard as their avi.
Bakayoko was indeed more effective than Matic on Sunday and yet the midfield battle played perfectly into his hands.
While Matic and Ander Herrera focused on minimising the influence of N’Golo Kante and Cesc Fabregas, Bakayoko was the extra man, totally free to surge up the pitch and find space. He could have scored on a few occasions.
But what about when this dynamic isn’t the case? The former Monaco man was heavily chastised by Chelsea supporters following a galling defeat in Rome that saw him dramatically struggle without Kante’s influence behind him. This was a proper midfield battle, played in the cauldron of a big Champions League game, and Bakayoko ended up with cold feet.
And you sense that Matic, the more experienced, positionally astute midfielder, would have fared slightly better. He may not win a game on his own and threaten an opponents’s goal in the same way, but there aren’t many situations – no matter how egregious – that phase him.